The Ledge was screened in New York during a stand-off between supporters and opponents of gay marriage; some journalists even believed that the city, which was one vote away from legalizing marriage equality, was on the heels on “anarchism.” Luckily, it never came that far. Coincidentally, the film, Matthew Chapman’s directorial debut (he also pens the script), was inspired by his own experiences with negative reactions over his uncle’s homosexuality. In one interview, Chapman, who authored two non-fiction books, Trials of the Monkey: An Accidental Memoir and 40 Days and 40 Nights, recalls that he wasn’t “much older than ten” when he realized that “this hatred either came from or was justified by the bible.” Thus he made the film’s theme rationalism versus faith. Unfortunately, dry storytelling and in-your-face characterization cheapens an ambitious message.
As writer and director, Chapman believes that humor and suspense are “underused as vehicles for carrying serious themes.” His freshman effort is a manifestation of that belief . . . or at least it tries to be. The film opens with Hollis (Terrence Howard), a police Detective, finding out that he’s infertile. This is news to him as he’s already fathered two children, whom he thought were his. Whilst slouching around the office, planning his divorce, he’s called onto a rooftop, where Gavin (Charlie Hunnam), a hotel manager, is about to jump. Gavin admits that he isn’t married, doesn’t have a girlfriend (per se), and that he has to off himself or someone else will die.
The Ledge then flashbacks to Joe (Patrick Wilson) and Shauna (Liv Tyler), a new couple in Gavin’s building, moving in next door. At face value, they seem nice, spouting the obligatory “hellos” and “goodbyes” at each passing. The latter even finds work at Gavin’s hotel. It doesn’t take much for him to fall for her and at her request, is invited to a neighborly dinner, where he first butts heads with Joe, a fundamentalist Christian. We learn that the couple doesn’t drink (despite having alcohol in their home) and believe everyone (save for a few devoted folk) will go to hell. This doesn’t sit well with Gavin, an atheist, who decides to liberate Shauna from her domineering spouse. But looks prove to be deceiving when the usually introverted wife quickly becomes a sexual goddess, the God-fearing husband looks into more ‘effective’ ways of dealing with his lover’s infidelity, and Gavin, well, he’s being screwed regardless.
From a critically-acclaimed author, one should expect more from The Ledge. This film, however, is in shambles. Dialogue, especially, is not Chapman’s forte. Never should a movie that studies a group of present-day working folk have characters that sound like they’re reciting Shakespearian text. The majority of the film has Joe and Gavin arguing about religion (with both trying desperately to prove that the other is closed minded). These scenes are relentlessly didactic and occur in 10-to-15 minute spurts, ending with either character retaliating in a rage while being preached to. It’s almost ironic that in the same, aforementioned interview, the director states, “. . . if people are in suspense or doubled up laughing, they’ll ingest all kinds of stuff without feeling they’re being lectured to.”
But more importantly, what is Terrence Howard doing in this film? Sure, his performance is decent (and he must’ve been crowned the “Indie Film King” for a reason) but his character contributes nothing to the big picture, in fact, there’s about half an hour (and thousands of dollars) wasted in setting up Hollis’ superfluous backstory. But, with this quality of writing, even Tyler and Hunnam (known for his role in “Sons of Anarchy”) couldn’t have saved this faulty production (although Wilson is suitably creepy).
The Ledge takes bad to new heights.